Converting Golf Course Land Use

Converting Golf Course Land Use

The demise of traditional golf is opening a new land rush. Many acres of very usable land are being converted every day from golf to new types of development. The combination of loss in popularity, drought, costs, and land values are driving a big trend of developing closed golf course land.

There are many issues with this trend, the most challenging are:

  • How can you work out the golfers/residents who at least think they are vested with golf rights?
  • How can entitlements be gained for less attractive new development?
  • How can politicians appease their constituents?
  • What replaces amenities for real estate?
  • Who can afford to convert golf course land?
  • What can conversion solve?

FORMA has been challenged many times to find the answers to the above questions and there seems to be a commonality between projects.

The vision is best presented that the “financially bankrupt golf” will be replaced with a viable mixed-use park that has multiple stakeholders. The park will keep the area somewhat green and allow an economic redevelopment of the land into a viable configuration.

The mixed-use concept allows economic drivers such as hospitality, additional residential, offices, recreation, trails, golf training, education, etc. – all screened with variable park dimensions. There can also be major environmental benefits with water cleansing basins, permeable surfaces, hotel bed taxes, and energy conservation features.

Perhaps the most compelling vision is that land that was “exclusive” by definition to golfers will now become parks and trails open to all family members and their friends.

Creative design can assure the neighbors and local government that they will get something in the process and add to project supporters.

New development nestled into the park area will be buffered and likely very attractive. The views everyone appreciates will not go away but rather be re-framed and redesigned.

There is also science to how the converted golf land to park uses actually mitigate for many impacts of new development – both environmentally and economically. There is evidence that the shadow of land premiums for parkland is actually larger than the shadow of golf. And there is nothing better than green space to offset air, water, habitat, and other environmental impacts of new development.

The game of golf will continue to evolve but it assuredly going to be in a reduced envelope so there will be more land to convert.

Trend: Mixed Use Parks

Land use as parks is evolving. In contrast with general open space, parks are meant to be used. Parks have been typically the domain of government management because the cost to maintain needed to be shared by taxpayers as a simple formula for equitable use.

Beginning in the 1980’s this formula began to change. The excesses of government spending were scrutinized and the word “privatize” grew in popularity to suggest that “pay to play” was a more direct and equitable formula for park use. This trend then brought the reality of attracting multiple “stakeholders” to the option of park development and maintenance. It was also recognized that parks that were truly mixed-use were more vibrant and financially sound. Again, parks are for people to use and the more the better.

Mixing uses has another efficiency. Sharing infrastructure by different uses consumes less land and costs of maintenance are reduced. Why have an empty parking lot when complimentary uses can share? Even more poignant is the need for technology access and the costs that can be shared by many different users. Even “soft” infrastructure such as staffing, can be shared.

Mixed-Use Parks

In these terms of mixing uses in parks, the model of fairgrounds come to mind. Public land that is opened to traditional park uses but also serves as event space and venues for public education, visitor attractions, husbandry, and the like.

Benefits of mixed-use parks

  • Less cost
  • More patronage
  • More services
  • Potential real estate value
  • Memorable
  • Reduced homeowner cost
  • More venues
  • Living and changing design

One could even project that as our lives are increasingly urbanized then our parks should likewise become more urban. A park that has more services will attract more people.

This can all be done without compromising the function of parks to provide respite, outdoor landscaping, fresh air, and the balance to our lives.

2015 Award

The recently completed Lincoln Place project has won a 2015 Conservancy Preservation Award. Owner and
developer, Aimco Venezia LLC, brought together a dedicated team to renovate this historically significant property of which FORMA Landscape Architecture played an integral role.

The 38-acre Lincoln Place garden apartment complex was originally completed in 1951 and contained 795 units in 52 buildings and is located about a mile from Venice Beach.

The owner renovated forty-five historic buildings and constructed thirteen new buildings in place of ten
buildings that were demolished. The modern style architecture “…embodies the Garden City planning principles that the FHA advocated in 1947 for rental housing: multi-family housing units are placed in a garden-like, open setting with common courtyards.”

The project demonstrates how carefully integrated old and new construction can coexist harmoniously in garden apartment communities.

Information regarding the award is available at this website:

An Artist Discovered

It has been recently discovered that Yoshi Nagata, our newest team member in the Landscape Architecture department, has a hobby and pastime in illustrating for friends and family. “Drawing and sketching is a stress reliever and has always been a fun way to relax. It makes me feel good when my illustrations bring joy to others”, says Yoshi.

Yoshi also has a passion for creating realistic perspective illustrations and recently had the opportunity to showcase his innate creative skills in producing an artistic rendering of a project site that captured the vision and character of future development. His transliterate skills have proven to be a true asset to FORMA in his professional work in landscape architecture and design.

3050 Pullman Street Costa Mesa, CA 92626 Tel: 714.673.6200